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Elementary music program introduces students to skills, collaboration

Elementary Music

Growing up, Marisa Hannahs remembers being surrounded by music, especially when with family.

“My grandmother was always super into music. I would go to her house all the time when I was younger. We, as well as my parents, would sing songs and play music,” she said.

Sparked by that connection, and a trumpet playing uncle, the then San Tan Elementary School fifth-grader Marisa picked up a trumpet and joined band.

Students in Higley’s elementary schools can join band or orchestra during the school day starting in fifth grade. They can take basic skills acquired during music classes in earlier years and apply them to the instrument they choose, be it brass, woodwind, or percussion.

“In fifth grade, they're really excited to be exposed to something new like this. They have their music classes, but this is an individualized instrument. They get to learn a brand-new skill with their friends, so they really enjoy it,” said San Tan band instructor Alexander Rivera explained.

Students who stay with the band program can continue to develop their skills at the middle school and high school level.

“You start them at a young age. You get them when they’re less experienced … as the students develop, they’re scaffolding up from each level into high school,” said Rivera, who also serves as assistant director of Higley High’s marching band. “

Marisa said her earlier experiences made it easier to join the marching band. She is a sophomore in the Marching Knights.

“I knew how to play the instrument, so then I just had to add the marching,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun. You still get to learn a lot. Even if you join later and need to learn the instrument, you still get to learn so much.”

Orchestra students gain similar skills that can lead them to perform with one of Higley or Williams Field’s award-winning programs.

Last year, the elementary orchestra program moved from before school to during school. Learning an instrument in fifth or sixth grade opens doors for students as they move into secondary schools.

“Students can enroll in a number of electives in middle school and high school,” said David Jacques, who teaches orchestra at Coronado Elementary.

“Elementary orchestra prepares them because it’s the first time that they have chosen to participate in a class,” he said. “It’s more of an elective compared to their other classes. As they go through middle school and high school, they have more freedom,” he said.

Just as young children grasp a new language, they also develop musical skills easier than they would in their older years.

“It really helps to connect all the brain’s synapses in the same way language does. I think it also builds the bond of teamwork and being part of something bigger than themselves,” Jacques said.